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Originally published December 18, 2008 at 2:10 PM | Page modified December 18, 2008 at 9:40 PM

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Movie review

Just say "Yes Man"

"Yes Man," starring Jim Carrey, is worth embracing in a season of dark, serious cinema.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Yes Man," with Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Terence Stamp, Rhys Darby. Directed by Peyton Reed, from a screenplay by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, based on the book by Danny Wallace. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity. Several theaters.

Early in "Yes Man," Carl (Jim Carrey) spots his ex-wife while hanging out at a bar with friends. They make awkward conversation and he, embarrassed, tries to make a quick departure. "Anyway, I'm gone ... a-ree-ah," he says, in a desperate attempt at a funny exit line; then, realizing to his horror that the phrase didn't sound quite right, he turns quickly — and trips over something.

Dear readers, this is not cinematic history in the making, or comic genius, or even especially clever. But in this season of movies crammed full with Nazis, depressed suburbanites, dying dogs and murdered politicians, I was grateful for it. It was funny. It was light. It was a moment, and it worked, and then the movie moved on. Sometimes, during the end-of-year marathon of Serious and Important Movies, you need to watch somebody saying something goofy and then tripping. Thanks, Jim.

"Yes Man" is a typical Carrey vehicle (schematically, it's a lot like "Liar Liar"), but it's better than most of them due to a top-notch supporting cast. Carrey plays Carl, a junior loan officer whose life seems to consist of declining loan applications, ignoring phone calls and trying to avoid the aforementioned ex-wife. After attending a self-help seminar run by a charismatic guru (Terence Stamp, looking otherworldly), he decides to embrace "yes" in his life. Soon he's agreeing to everything, and finding love (with cute musician Allison, played by Zooey Deschanel), new friends (his dorky manager Norman, played by the wonderful Rhys Darby of "Flight of the Conchords") and a new awareness of how life is supposed to be.

This is featherweight stuff — you forget most of it within 24 hours — and the trio of screenwriters takes a few wrong turns. (Did I miss the memo that says that every big-studio comedy must have a tasteless sequence in which the sexuality of an over-60 woman is played for gross-out hilarity?) But director Peyton Reed, who showed in "Bring It On" that he has a light touch, keeps things moving along, and Deschanel's wide-eyed warmth creates some real (and surprisingly adorable) chemistry with Carrey. And Darby, whose glad-handing Norman hosts his Harry Potter theme party in a red Ron Weasley wig, steals every scene he's in. Thrilled that Carl has called him "Norm," he chirps excitedly, "Could that be, like, my nickname?"

Carrey, projecting his usual hyperalert blankness, does little here he hasn't done on screen before. But he's often funny and even a bit more relaxed than usual, and gives his co-stars room to make an impression. "Yes Man," on its own undemanding terms, works decently; those in search of a laugh in this angst-ridden holiday season could do far worse.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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